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The Sun movie review: ‘American Hustle’

HAMBURG — Director David O. Russell is becoming the new Martin Scorsese. Like the great Scorsese, Russell’s films are intelligent, complicated and funny narratives that exist somewhere between the underbelly of society and the seemingly respectable lifestyles of any given time.

Add in a good measure of desperate characters’ seeking the big score and we are off and running on a whirlwind of schemes and maneuvers that will make your head spin.

The intoxicating energy of “American Hustle” is achieved by Russell’s pacing, brilliant editing and, most importantly, the casting of one of the best acting ensembles of the year.

Christian Bale stars in a bravura performance that is – how can I put it? – dramatically funny? Yes, that’s it. He is well matched with turns by Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and my personal favorite, Jennifer Lawrence as you have never seen her before.

Forget “The Hunger Games.” Lawrence once again reminds us why she won the Academy Award© year. She may just collect another, during this March’s ceremony.

In “American Hustle,” Lawrence delivers a bold and original portrait. She is funny and touching; a masterful performance.

Bale and Adams play 1970s con artists who get entrapped by FBI Agent Cooper, as they attempt to pull off one of their more brazen schemes.

Rather than arrest them, Cooper, appreciating their extraordinary criminal skills, enlists them to help him bring down a slew of corrupt public figures, mayors and congressman. This is a world of power brokers, criminals and frauds. What follows is wild, unpredictable and funny.

“American Hustle” gathers many of the cast members who appeared in Russell’s previous films, especially “The Fighter” and “Silver Linings Playbook,” which explains the great chemistry among this stellar troop.

Even Robert De Niro briefly appears in an uncredited role as a mafia boss, in a very effective scene. There is also a terrific cameo performance by comic Louis C. K.

This movie isfull of surprises. Adams brings to the screen a character you would not initially associate her with. Cooper may even surprise you with his portrayal of a desperate overachiever that borders on madness.

I have read that “American Hustle” is a fictionalized and loosely based story of the FBI ABSCAM operation of the late ‘70s. It is full of dark humor and brings to mind “Prizzi’s Honor” and “Goodfellas.”

Although funny and compelling, this is not an easy film to watch. It took a little time to understand what was going on.

It is not that it is muddled. It’s just that “American Hustle” is a complicated story and the challenge is keeping up with its speed of light rhythm.

You are forced to be super attentive, or you may miss a detail or a plot point. This is not a criticism. This element is what elevates “American Hustle” to one of the best movies of 2013.

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